Because nine years ago my life split apart at the seams and I began living a life of quiet desperation. When my husband died, I became serious, dark, sad, and lonely. Survival became my number one priority. I lived according to a checklist: get kids through grief, keep the house standing, take care of the car, figure out what to do tomorrow, make ends meet, and work until your eyes bleed because you're all the kids have now. Isolation grew along with sadness. Yes, I've had joyous moments. I'm not implying otherwise. The kids and I have traveled, we've laughed, we've grown together in wonderful ways. We've come a long way, us three.
But a part of me had been locked away all of this time...she's been afraid to be seen, preferred hiding behind weight gain, work excuses, and social isolation. Why? Because surviving suicide is a heavy burden to bear, especially as the spouse. I can't tell you how many times people ask me if I "knew" my late husband's intent, if I "knew" he was sad. The implication is always there...that I could have saved him, should have made a difference. Shame crept in and held me captive even though I knew better. Logic sometimes pales in comparison to guilt and grief.
Some people only see my smile without noticing the pain in my eyes. Some people only see the outer success without thinking I could be sad or lonely. Some people see my outward appearance and fail to notice my insecurity at being abandoned by the man I loved in such a harsh way. Some people ask those questions I mentioned above without thinking about the implication or the impact those words possess. Hiding becomes a skill after awhile...an effortless talent.
It was scary as hell to come out of the shadows. I started inching out of my dark space in 2010 when I began putting my writing back out into the world, but even that felt awkward. Who did I think I was stepping into success when my gorgeous husband had ended his life? How dare I enjoy life? Shouldn't I keep punishing myself? (Yes, these are real and dysfunctional thoughts that I've had.)
But when I walked onto that stage in my purple dance attire complete with sparkles and glitter, heaviness lifted and my heart took flight. The women who danced with me were also beginners who had their own insecurities bubbling to the surface. Together as one unit we danced. We weren't the most skilled, obviously, but the crowd cheered encouragement.
In the audience were other more experienced belly dancers who hollered their support. The crowd went wild when we started moving. The positive energy drenched us with love. We danced, we made mistakes, but we kept dancing.
I felt "her" returning...the me that's been hiding for awhile now. I felt her shining in the spotlight and tossing off the shroud that's been covering her for so long. By the time we hit the shimmy at the end, I felt connected with the free spirited woman I used to be before tragedy took its toll. I couldn't stop smiling. Exhilaration pumped through my heart.
It's been a long road. I think of the moments I overlooked, things I took for granted, remember our last family vacation as a foursome, and yearn for a love lost. But when I walked off that stage I thought..."I did it, I'm still standing, I'm whole, I'm still the me I used to be...have always been."
When we beginners were off stage, we looked at each other and laughed. We'd done it! We'd tackled our insecurities, come out of the shadows, danced in the spotlight in front of 300 people with our glittery costumes, and left the stage lighter than we'd entered it.
No more hiding...only dancing.
Picture is blurry because my daughter took it and we were moving, but I wanted to use it anyway because it's real. It's a victorious moment for me--women of all ages, shapes, and backgrounds joined together and conquered their fears. AWESOME! (I'm in purple.)
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